- The Washington Times - Monday, September 22, 2008

The Monday conversation between London Fletcher and his father, London Baker, started like most of their chats over the phone. They talked about their lives and discussed the Redskins’ 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints the day before.

But something told the Redskins linebacker he should ask his 62-year-old father a deeper question. He asked his father whether he felt as if he had been saved by the Lord. Baker told him he had.

A few hours later, Baker died, the victim of unexpected heart failure.

Shaken by the sudden loss, Fletcher attended team meetings at Redskin Park on Tuesday and Wednesday before flying to Cleveland to be with his family. He attended his father’s funeral Friday afternoon, then returned Saturday, helping lead his team to victory Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field.

“My dad and I were very close,” said Fletcher, who finished with seven tackles against Arizona.

A “mentally and emotionally exhausted” Fletcher said the hardest part of Sunday’s game was playing without full preparation for the Cardinals’ attack. Fletcher missed practice Thursday and Friday, so linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti had to bring him up to speed Saturday. On Sunday, Fletcher listened to gospel music before the game and reflected on his final conversation with his father.

“I prayed to the Lord to help me get through this game,” Fletcher said. “I called out to him, and he came through.”

Getting pushy

Offensive pass interference is among the NFL’s least frequently called penalties. So it was no small feat when rookie wide receiver Devin Thomas was flagged twice for interfering with Arizona cornerback Roderick Hood. Thomas’ first grapple with Hood was expunged because of offsetting penalties (Hood was called for interference as well) but his second tussle cost the Redskins 15 yards.

“I’m an aggressive person,” Thomas said. “I realized that I can’t be pushing and shoving down the field. I got to work on that.”

It was all part of an interesting day for Thomas, who finished with one reception for 7 yards. He also scampered 16 yards on an end-around in the third quarter and eluded the Arizona secondary for a 62-yard touchdown - only to have the score scrapped by an unnecessary roughness penalty on right tackle Stephon Heyer. The second-round pick out of Michigan State laughed when asked about the play.

“Hopefully I can get one next week,” Thomas said.

Jansen gets a chance

When Heyer sprained his left shoulder late in the first quarter, Jon Jansen came in a right tackle, where he spent the better part of a decade. The 10-year veteran’s comeback lasted only until halftime, but he said it was fun.

“It was nice to get back in there, nice to get some good film,” said Jansen, who suffered season-ending leg and ankle injuries in Week 1 of last season. “I try to stay a little bit loose because I go in on field goals [and extra points], and luckily there was a timeout, so I had a chance to get myself going. It felt great. I had fun. I thought I did very well.”

Brooks bounces back

Rookie Durant Brooks entered Week 3 ranked last in the NFL in both gross and net punting. Special teams coach Danny Smith had hinted that the sixth-round draft choice’s job was in jeopardy if his struggles continued against Arizona.

Brooks responded with 42.8-yard gross and 42.0-yard net averages.

“It was a 360, a total difference,” Brooks said. “You get some good punts, have a decent day, you feel so much better.”

Brooks’ third punt travelled 56 yards to the Arizona 7, and there was no return.

“That was awesome,” Brooks said. “I was popping blood vessels I was so excited.”

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